Cancer trials collaborative celebrates patient milestone

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Cancer Trials Australia says it has recently marked the recruitment of the 10,000th oncology patient to trials managed on behalf of their member network of hospitals.

Professor Mark Rosenthal, who previously served as CEO and chairperson of Cancer Trials Australia (CTA), said, this milestone reflects the commitment of a small group of researchers who came together in the early 1990s.

“We were a small academic group that was, in retrospect, extraordinary,” he said.

“We were firmly not-for-profit from the outset and we have always been member-based so we’ve grown an incredibly powerful network out of the desire to connect clinicians with similar interests and skills for the common good,” said Professor Rosenthal.

“In many ways we were the birthplace of many experimental cancer treatments and we remain a great advocate for patients and cancer treatment. We created this organisation for the love and respect of clinical trials, because we recognised there was a need to collaborate to improve outcomes for patients."

“A spectrum of highly trained professionals is really what allows us to do the work that we do. The fact that hospitals now have research fellows embedded within them, and that these people can see first-hand how research is done -- that helps to build our local capability and ultimately directly benefits patients,” said Professor Andrew Scott, current chair of CTA.

Professor Scott has been involved in the organisation since its inception.

“During trials, a lot of time is spent doing things that are not related at all to the research itself, from budgeting, contracts, ethical frameworks and financial management. The CTA team has always taken this incredible administrative burden away from the researchers, allowing them to focus on what they do best.

“From a researcher’s perspective, to know CTA provides a pathway for rapid translation of discoveries to the market is something we can all be proud of. Through its professional and driven support of this industry, CTA allows the discoveries of Australian researchers to be studied here and not just disappear overseas,” said Professor Rosenthal.

Professor Rosenthal said the CTA model makes the set-up of phase one oncology trials fast and efficient.

He said the organisation plans to strengthen this capability and expand its work beyond oncology.

According to Associate Professor Jayesh Desai, chair of CTA’s phase one trial group, “Our network is really collegiate. We have all benefited from having something that goes beyond us as individuals alone. It’s highly specialised work and it requires immense skill and support.”

CTA said broadening access to treatments remains a key focus.

“One of our key achievements has been to improve access to new treatments for Australian cancer patients. Experimental treatments are now available at any time during the patient’s journey. They don’t have to miss out because they don't live in Melbourne, or because of financial constraints.

“Designing trials requires a seamless, intimate interaction between scientists, clinicians, companies and many others to plan the best way to deliver the trial. It’s a complex process that we have mentored many people through. We have also ensured inclusion of rural and regional sites in studies now and telehealth has enabled new reach for our work,” added Professor Scott.